Bengaluru - Gold hit its highest since April 2018 on Friday as intensifying political concerns in the Middle East and weak economic data from China and the US pushed it above the $1,350 level.

Spot gold was up 1% to $1,355.00 an ounce at 10.22am GMT, after hitting its highest since April last year at $1,358.04 earlier in the session.

Prices have risen 1.1% so far this week, keeping the metal on track for its fourth consecutive weekly gain. US gold futures jumped 1.1% to $1,357.9 an ounce.

“In people’s minds there is a sense of a deeply darkening macro-economic backdrop, in particular the likelihood that the US will drop interest rate quite soon,” said Ross Norman, CEO at bullion dealer Sharps Pixley.

Investors are getting ahead of the curve by buying gold in expectation that the US Federal Reserve will have to reverse its previous tightening policy, by extension pressuring the dollar and lifting gold, Norman said.

China’s industrial output growth slowed to a more than 17-year low of 5% in May, the latest sign of weakening demand in the world’s second-largest economy as the US ramped up trade pressure. 

The impact of the US-China trade war was also evident in the US labour market, which saw an unexpected rise in the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment over the past week.

Recent soft US economic readings have also boosted expectations of a Fed rate cut. In addition to weighing on the dollar, lower interest rates also cut the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Meanwhile, world stocks struggled as Chinese data rekindled concerns over the global economy, while fears of a new US-Iran confrontation intensified. Iran has rebuffed blame from Washington for this week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and affirmed its responsibility for security in the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes, state radio reported.

“Gold is set to shine as investors sprint to safe-haven assets,” Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, said in a note. “Gold bulls are in the driver’s seat, with a weekly close above $1,360 opening the doors towards $1,372 and $1,390.”

In other metals, silver gained 1.1% to $15.06, its highest in a week. Platinum rose 1% to $815.85. Palladium climbed 1% to $1,458.25 after hitting its highest since April 29 at $1,466.05 earlier in the session. The automotive catalyst metal has risen more than 7.5% so far this week and is set to post its biggest weekly gain since the week ended April 13 2018.